February Garden Guide

How is your garden looking at this time of year? Have those couple of heatwaves battered it around a bit?

Here we haven’t lost many plants, but we’ve seen some of those prized mangoes get sunburnt, along with many baby persimmons, both of which had a long way to go before ripening – the result of choosing not to shade trees when it was inconvenient to do so. And when we finally did shade the mango tree, the biggest fruit fell off. Never mind, I have just been to chat to my friendly local Indian grocer, who has shared a recipe for green mango dip. Wish me luck!

Our raised vegetable beds, originally filled years ago with imported sandy loam, have again demonstrated that more water retention is required – a reminder to me to get some bentonite clay and more manure into them before I do any more planting there.

The fruit trees that we’ve finished harvesting – and preserving – (apricots, plum, peaches) are ready for their summer pruning, but I’m not – I’ve done too much overhead grape picking and watering can carrying, and my neck is insisting on a break from some of the heavy tasks – another reminder that sustainability has to include the gardeners, not just the garden.

Meanwhile we’ve been delighted to see our new resident willy wagtails successfully raising their first chick here. It has been strutting its stuff, catching insects around the bird-pecked grape bunches, and contributing its fair share of fertiliser under the lemon tree. (The willies love perching on our wheelbarrow handle to do their cheeky dance, and it’s been parked there so long that I feel I’ll have to give them a substitute dance stage – as well as scraping off the deep layer of manure – next time I shift it!)

We have also had our first substantial apple crop, having planted the apple and pear trees after the main series of stone fruit and citrus, and needing a little longer for them to start bearing. The heaviest bearer has been the Tropical Beauty, but when I found that I didn’t like its ripe texture and flavour as much as other apples, I decided to pick most of them green for cooking and preserving. The Royal Gala tree now has Golden Delicious, Fuji, Granny Smith and possibly a few others grafted onto it – so this will be our main fresh eating apple tree. Unfortunately most of the labels have now faded so some detective work is required to identify the varieties and time the picking right. Growing two very different apples on the one stem was pretty unexpected… still working out what happened here! (The apple on the right looks and tastes like Granny Smith, while the one on the left looks more like the original Royal Gala, but was found when past its best.)

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The early-picked Tropical Beauty apples made good fritters so I shall share the recipe here. Probably not for the first or last time.

APPLE FRITTERS

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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large apples, cored and sliced thinly – only peel if skins are tough
  • 1.5 cups SR flour (my favourite is Four-Leaf 85% light flour with 1 tsp aluminium-free baking powder)
  • 2 eggs (this time I was out of eggs so used more yogurt)
  • Enough yogurt, milk and lemon juice to make a thick batter (use whatever you have)
  • Olive oil and butter for frying

METHOD

  • Whisk the batter ingredients together until it’s thick and bubbly but light enough to easily coat apple slices.
  • Drop the apple slices into the mixture and turn until they are well coated.
  • Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add a good splosh of olive oil and a dab of butter for flavour.
  • Fry batches of fritters until golden brown on both sides.

They are delicious for breakfast or brunch just as they are, or sprinkled with more lemon juice, cinnamon sugar or maple syrup, or dolloped with your favourite jam and yogurt and served with a strong pot of tea.

Thus refreshed, we come to the perennial question of what to do next in the garden.

This month we can safely say, start with watering. Then a bit more watering. After that, depending what is happening fastest in your garden…

  • Keep up with picking ripe produce and processing it before it spoils. In our case that means trimming peaches and nectarines that have been attacked by dried-fruit beetle which spreads brown rot. If picked while the damage is minimal, most of each fruit is still beautiful – but 24 hours later (especially if they have fallen and bruised) they can be an oozing mess.
  • Stay ahead of birds with netting trees and picking fruit.
  • Dry, preserve, share, eat, make smoothies, make chutney or relish, make ice blocks, swap and give away, and feed the seconds or thirds to the chooks. Below is zucchini relish in progress (I left out the capsicum). So yummy that even my zucchini hater loves it!

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  • Fertilise fruit trees, along with replenishing manure and mulch and deep watering, before autumn. Especially if you are pruning after the harvest, this extra care will help to ensure strong regrowth and support good fruiting next summer.
  • Keep chooks, pets and sensitive plants sheltered and supplied with cool water daily.
  • Give vegetables regular liquid fertiliser, including weed tea and worm liquid, for rapid uptake of nutrients.
  • Fill in gaps in vegetable gardens with: (* for direct sowing, otherwise seedlings) Basil, *Beans (bush varieties, to fruit before the hot weather runs out), beetroot, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, chives, lettuce (but keep semi-shaded and cool), mint (rooted cuttings are easiest), mizuna, mustard, parsnip (use very fresh seed), radish, rocket, silverbeet (soak seeds first), spinach (but avoid very hot times), spring onions, swede, tatsoi, and most herbs as seedlings or cuttings.
  • If you haven’t already planned for the rest of the year, take a look at your space and browse back through the archives here for ideas on how you could be using it in the seasons to come.

 

WHAT’S COMING UP

Image may contain: plant and outdoorPreserving the Home Harvest – Mon. 19 February 2018, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm at The Joinery, 111 Franklin St Adelaide. Tickets at Eventbrite (click title for link). “Summer can bring an over-abundance of home-grown fruits and vegetables – sometimes more than you can use while it’s fresh. This short workshop offers an overview of a wide range of ways to preserve and keep summer’s bounty to use throughout the year, drawing on permaculture principles.”

Sally’s grafted and seedling fruit trees are available to order, including multi-grafted trees, e.g. peach and nectarine, plum and apricot, 2 varieties of plum, or more mix’n’match! Plus avocados, guavas and much more. (Pic above: Sally grafting an avocado tree). Email sally.osterstock@gmail.com.

Workshops and presentations – focused on edible gardening, sustainability and permaculture, for local community groups. Bookings available throughout 2018 – please call or email to discuss your group’s needs.

Organic Corner Store Market – first and third Thursday each month, Glenelg North Community Centre.

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